Pulitika atpb

Monday, August 29, 2005

Political Boom-Bust Cycle

The Philippines takes pride in having the most extensive experience in electoral politics in the Southeast Asian Region. Elections have been conducted at the national and local level since the Americans introduced it in the 1900s. However, the uneven social and economic development in Philippine society has engendered an elitist and clientelistic democracy embedded in an underdeveloped economy. Ferdinand Marcos exploited the illiberal nature of Philippine electoral democracy in 1972 to declare martial law and establish authoritarian rule for fourteen years. The groundswell of opposition to the Marcos dictatorship led to a crisis of legitimation that marked the beginning of the end for the authoritarian regime. The ouster of the Marcos dictatorship by a people power uprising in 1986 ushered a wave of democratization not only in the Philippines but the region as well.

The post-Marcos democratic transition has seen intermittent periods of political and economic stability amid domestic and regional instability. Despite the threat of military coups, the administration of President Corazon Aquino managed to survive and oversee the drafting of a new constitution and the peaceful transition of presidential powers to her successor Fidel Ramos. President Ramos embarked on an ambitious peace and development program that provided a relative period of economic growth and political stability. Nonetheless, the 1997 Asian financial crisis has decimated much of the economic gains of the Ramos administration.

The election of popular movie actor Joseph Estrada to the presidency in 1998 and his subsequent ouster in a second people power uprising in 2001 that installed Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the presidency clearly demonstrate the fragility of Philippine democracy. The failed attempt of disgruntled Estrada supporters, largely drawn from the poverty-stricken masses, to mount its own people power uprising against President Arroyo marked the reemergence of a legitimation crisis that is reflective of the deep political and socio-economic divisions in the country. The legitimation crisis was exacerbated by a mutiny led by junior military officers in late 2003.

Within this context of contemporary political history, the 2004 election can be seen, not only as a referendum on the performance of Arroyo administration, but as a means of addressing the crisis of legitimation in the Philippines. However, the conduct and outcome of the May 10, 2004 national and local elections in the Philippines tend to reinforce the fundamental paradoxes of democratic governance in the country that have precipitated the current national crisis.


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